Mad Men, "Christmas Waltz": a plate of spaghetti and a sexy, non-sexual test drive

Quick Take: Mad Men, "Christmas Waltz"
"Prepare to swim the English Channel and drown in champagne." - Don 


Review: Mad Men, "Christmas Waltz"
(S0510) Spring, the season of rebirth and new beginnings, has come early in the Mad Man universe -- like Christmas 1966 early. Things have been pretty tough for SCDP and its employees lately, but little blossoms of hope are popping up on the horizon.

The most obvious sign of change in "Christmas Waltz" comes in the form of Paul Kinsey (Michael Gladis), who since leaving SCDP has taken up refuge with the Hari Krishnas. I'll spare you the details of this particular subplot -- because regardless of how nice is was to see Kinsey again -- it was by far the weakest part of an otherwise strong episode. Let's just say, the plot involves a floozy named Lakshmi (Anna Wood) and a Star Trek spec script with not-so-subtle racial undertones.

The real focus "Christmas Waltz" is Don (Jon Hamm) and his apparent decision to refocus on work. Don's lax attitude toward copywriting has been an ongoing theme of this season, but never before last night was it referenced so openly . First Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) bristles at Don's lack of interest in the Jaguar campaign. Then Megan (Jessica Pare) infers that this lost, unfocused Don we've seen recently isn't the man she fell in love with.

Pete and Megan might have played a role in encouraging Don to sack-up and take charge of Jaguar, but Joan (Christina Hendricks) deserves the most credit. After Joan is served divorce papers by Dr. McRapey, Don takes her out for drinks to cheer her up. Of all of the great character pairings the show has put together (most happen to involve Roger), Don and Joan are by far the most underutilized. The chemistry between Hamm and Hendricks is electrifying. These two may never hook-up (and part of me hopes they don't) but every they time look at each other, their eyes scream, "Sex."

The really interesting thing about the Joan/Don coupling is the fact that of all the women in Don's life, Joan feels like the most natural fit. I bought Joan and Don shopping for car as man and wife much more than I bought Don squirming through some awful play with Megan. And perhaps that's the point: the thing we want, the things that makes the most sense, is the thing we'll never have.

It's sort of ironic that a Betty-esque temper tantrum from Megan -- "the perfect wife" -- is a factor in snapping Don out of his work funk. He comes home drunk from his non-sexual rendezvous with Joan to find a furious Megan waiting at the table for him. After an argument that Don unsuccessfully tries to defuse with his manly sex appeal, it seems to dawn on him that even a perfect wife isn't enough to fill the void inside him. He needs to work. He needs to be great at something again. A thrown plate a spaghetti is the catalyst for a Coach Taylor-worthy pep talk about the importance of the Jaguar account. (Clear Christmastime schedules. Full Saturday workdays. Can't lose!) And just like that, the Draper we know and love is reborn.

Lingering thoughts on "Christmas Waltz":

  • Roger starts drinking before 8:00 AM to celebrate Pearl Harbor Day. Love it.
  • I love Lane, and I've missed him onscreen a lot this this season. I know we've established his money problems in past episode, but it seems a little out of character for him to embezzle from SCDP.
  • The twist at the end of Kinsey's Star Trek script, "The Negron Project": The Negrons are white. Kinsey is certainly no Ben Hargrove.
  • Joan's blow up on the receptionist was classic. "There's an AIRPLANE here to see you!"
  • When Don and Megan got in the car for the test drive, was anyone else thinking about Gloria Trillo?
  • By Lucas High

    About the author

    Lucas High is a man on a mission. That mission: to watch television for a living. Drop him a line at lhigh2@gmail.com, on Facebook and on Twitter at twitter.com/LucasHigh.

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    1 Comment
    On: Monday, May 21, 2012
    Eric - TV Geek Army "Revered Leader" said:

    I enjoyed every moment of seeing Kinsey back in action again. And I thought the Hari scenes were particularly well done as I somewhat ironically just watched a huge chunk of Scorsese's George Harrison documentary recently. Of the many bits to pull from there, I loved seeing how the Harry Crane Is A Total Prick consensus got undercut... but not cleanly of course -- turns out he's as messy and complex (and selfish) as most of us. 

    I did think the Lane storyline was noticeably weak -- he and Peggy have been just a bit underserved and/or given the more obvious storylines this season. Still, the acting all around is always so great that I'd hang out with Lane in the bank's waiting room just for kicks. 

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